Shocked, Shocked, Shocked


George Bush is shocked, shocked that there is torture being used by U.S. forces on Iraqi prisoners of war, in direct violation not only of basic human rights but of the Geneva Convention on Treatment of Prisoners of War of which the United States is not only a signatory, but a founding writer.

So shocked that he had his Pentagon try to get CBS not to show the pictures of the shocking behavior.

The truth is that if the Commander-in-Chief–remember him? He’s the guy in charge of the military that was running the Abu Ghraib detention facility in Baghdad–really did feel the “deep disgust” he claims he feels, and that such treatment is “not the way we do things in America,” heads would be rolling at very high levels of the military.

Instead what we see is six very low level soldiers facing possible court martials and seven higher-ups at the prison, as well as Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, commander of the 800th Military Police Brigade which was in charge of running Abu Ghraib, being removed from their duties there.

You can always tell whether prosecutors are serious about a case by whether they go after the little guys with the big guns, or whether they start cutting plea bargains with the small fry, in order to get them to rat on the higher-ups. If they go after the little guys, like they did in the My Lai Massacre case in Vietnam, you can bet that will be the end of it. No senior commanders will be called to account.

And so it appears to be going this time. So far the “punishments,” such as they are, are being strictly limited to the prison command structure, not to the officers above. This is exactly what was done with the My Lai case. No one responsible for the policies that led to that sickening massacre, or the countless others like it that went unpunished, was ever sanctioned.

Obviously everyone from General John Abezaid, and probably from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who actually visited the prison), on down knew what was going on, not only in Abu Ghraib, but in the other less publicly known prison camps where captured Iraqi insurgents are taken to be softened up for information. There have been enough reports leaking out about torture not only in Iraq but also in Afghanistan and in Guantanamo, for us to know that torture is not an aberration but rather is the policy.

It is in fact very much “the way we do things,” maybe not so much in America (though it certainly goes on routinely in police stations across the nation also), but wherever American soldiers fight the empire’s battles.

If anything, what sets America apart from some of its client states and from Saddam Hussein’s regime is not torture itself, which the CIA has long endorsed and practiced and taught to client states’ police, and which U.S. soldiers do at least as capably as the next centurion. It’s that some American soldiers actually believe strongly enough in the notional values of the American Constitution they ostensibly are fighting to protect to actually report such evil, even at the risk of personal loss or punishment. What sets America apart is that its mainstream media, as compromised and timid as they have become, will still occasionally, as CBS’s “60 Minutes” has done here, blow the whistle on such criminality and barbarism.

I suppose President Bush might be forgiven for saying that torture is not something American soldiers engage in. He wasn’t in Vietnam, or anywhere more dangerous than a rowdy bar, and probably the guys in his National Guard unit, at least on those days when he chose to show up for duty, weren’t into torturing the locals in Texas or Alabama. Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, of course, would know better. Though he seems to deny having said it these days, he once admitted to committing atrocities in Vietnam, which he said was something everyone was doing over there.

Still, if he were genuinely distressed at the images broadcast by CBS over his Pentagon’s objections, he would be demanding the stripes and stars of every ranking officer in the chain of command who either knew what was going on, or should have known and allowed it to happen on their watch.

Don’t hold your breath.

Dave Lindorff is completing a book of Counterpunch columns titled “This Can’t be Happening!” to be published this fall by Common Courage Press.


More articles by:

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

Weekend Edition
January 24, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
A Letter From Iowa
Jim Kavanagh
Aftermath: The Iran War After the Soleimani Assassination
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Camp by the Lake
Chuck Churchill
The Long History of Elite Rule: What Will It Take To End It?
Robert Hunziker
A Climate Time Bomb With Trump’s Name Inscribed
Andrew Levine
Trump: The King
James Graham
From Paris, With Tear Gas…
Rob Urie
Why the Primaries Matter
Dan Bacher
Will the Extinction of Delta Smelt Be Governor Gavin Newsom’s Environmental Legacy?
Ramzy Baroud
In the Name of “Israel’s Security”: Retreating US Gives Israel Billions More in Military Funding
Vijay Prashad
What the Right Wing in Latin America Means by Democracy Is Violence
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Biden’s Shameful Foreign Policy Record Extends Well Beyond Iraq
Louis Proyect
Isabel dos Santos and Africa’s Lumpen-Bourgeoisie
Nick Pemberton
AK-46: The Case Against Amy Klobuchar
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Promtheus’ Fire: Climate Change in the Time of Willful Ignorance
Linn Washington Jr.
Waiting for Justice in New Jersey
Ralph Nader
Pelosi’s Choice: Enough for Trump’s Impeachment but not going All Out for Removal
Ted Rall
If This is a Democracy, Why Don’t We Vote for the Vice President Too?
Mike Garrity – Jason Christensen
Don’t Kill 72 Grizzly Bears So Cattle Can Graze on Public Lands
Joseph Natoli
Who’s Speaking?
Kavaljit Singh
The US-China Trade Deal is Mostly Symbolic
Cesar Chelala
The Coronavirus Serious Public Health Threat in China
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Must Remain Vigilant and on Guard Against US Hybrid Warfare
Robert Fantina
Impeachment as a Distraction
Courtney Bourgoin
What We Lose When We Lose Wildlife
Mark Ashwill
Why Constructive Criticism of the US is Not Anti-American
Daniel Warner
Charlie Chaplin and Truly Modern Times
Manuel Perez-Rocha
How NAFTA 2.0 Boosts Fossil Fuel Polluters, Particularly in Mexico
Dean Baker
What Minimum Wage Would Be If It Kept Pace With Productivity
Mel Gurtov
India’s Failed Democracy
Thomas Knapp
US v. Sineneng-Smith: Does Immigration Law Trump Free Speech?
Winslow Myers
Turning Point: The new documentary “Coup 53”
Jeff Mackler
U.S. vs. Iran: Which Side are You On?
Sam Pizzigati
Braggadocio in the White House, Carcinogens in Our Neighborhoods
Christopher Brauchli
The Company Trump Keeps
Julian Vigo
Why Student Debt is a Human Rights Issue
Ramzy Baroud
These Chains Will Be Broken
Chris Wright
A Modest Proposal for Socialist Revolution
Thomas Barker
The Slow Death of European Social Democracy: How Corbynism Bucked the Trend
Nicky Reid
It’s Time to Bring the War Home Again
Michelle Valadez
Amy Klobuchar isn’t Green
David Swanson
CNN Poll: Sanders Is The Most Electable
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Our Dire Need for “Creative Extremists”—MLK’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail”
Robert Koehler
FBI, King and the Tremors of History
Jill Richardson
‘Little Women’ and the American Attitude Toward Poverty